Carley Conder, clinical assistant professor of dance in ASU's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, photographed at Taliesin West.

ASU dance professor recognized for artistry, collaboration

By

Lacy Chaffee

Carley Conder, clinical assistant professor of dance in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University, was recently recognized as a 2022 Tempe Arts and Culture Award recipient for her work as an Artistic Trailblazer by the Tempe Arts and Culture Commission and Tempe City Council.

She was honored at a Neighborhood Award celebration on March 26.

Conder is the founder and artistic director of CONDER|dance, resident arts organization of the Tempe Center for the Arts. According to the website, it is “committed to enhancing the cultural vibrancy of its home community in Arizona.” 

In addition to the award, Conder was also recently featured in Southwest Contemporary Magazine for her work with Taliesin West, the winter home of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, located in Scottsdale. 

Conder said being able to work with Taliesin West was an honor and also a fulfillment of a childhood goal. Her mother was a huge fan of Wright, and every time they visited the Valley from her hometown of Yuma, they would travel to Taliesin West.

“I would see the photos of the dance dramas that they would produce there,” Conder said. “I always had this fascination and great love of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. It was really special to dive into the whole history and make this bridge between the past and the present.”

She has produced four dance programs at Taliesin West. 

Conder recently shared her thoughts on collaboration, the recognition of her work, the challenges she faces as an artist and where she sees the future of dance in Arizona. 

Question: How does collaboration influence your work?

A: In dance, the traditional model is that the choreographer is very much a god-like figure who has all the answers and doesn’t ask for outside input. That model has been breaking down over the last 25 years. I really enjoy collaboration. It starts with the dancers. We went to Taliesin West and I would say, “I want you to reference the angles and textures here,” and they would create movement phrases. Then we would go to the desert and I would ask, “What movement would you make with these rocks under your feet?” I enjoy not being the only mind or voice in the room. It’s a way to access many different ideas. 

Q: What does this recognition mean to you?

A: I am a dedicated, loyal Tempe resident and have been doing what I can to contribute to the community. It’s always nice to have other people recognize you and say thank you for what you’re doing. It’s important to have your students know that you’re connected to projects outside the university. It’s also a way of connecting and showing how dance relates to a public value and a community service. My students are always part of my projects in all different capacities. It’s such a great conduit to allow students to be involved.

Q: What has been the greatest challenge for you as an artist?

A: The hardest part is the balancing act of everything. I have three children. The university position has been wonderful; I’ve been at ASU full time for six years. I have owned my company for 15 years. The hardest part is balancing all the roles of mother, wife, educator, creator, producer. I just have so many different things that are important to me.

Q: Where do you see the future of dance in this area?

A: In Tempe, I’ve seen opportunities grow to create platforms for other artists. "Breaking Ground" is a festival I’ve produced for 15 years at Tempe Center for the Arts. It’s a way to provide opportunities for other artists in a great theater with great audiences and funding from the community. I feel really lucky to have been able to gather the community together and present dance in lots of different ways over the years. I think these types of community-building opportunities will continue to grow.